secret Cézanne


Artists are greedy to learn and art is self-devouring; the handover from the nineteenth to the twentieth century was swiftly done. As was the handover from one kind of artist to another. Cézanne was an obscure figure even when famous; he was secretive, frugal, unacquisitive; he would often go missing for weeks on end; his emotional life, such as it was, remained deeply private and protected; and he had no interest in what the world called success. Braque was a dandy with a chauffeur; while Picasso single-handedly embodied the twentieth century’s ideal of an artist – public, political, rich, successful in all the meanings of the word, camera-loving and concupiscent. And if Cézanne might have thought Picasso’s life vulgar – in the sense that it detracted from the time, and the human integrity, required to make art – how austere and high-minded Picasso would come to seem compared to the most “successful” artists of the twenty-first century, flogging their endless versions of the same idea to know-nothing billionaires.

more from Julian Barnes at the TLS here.